When most people plan on getting married, they stress over minute details like “steak or chicken?” or “roses or hydrangeas?” But same sex couples, unfortunately, more often than not, are met with a whole new set of challenges than committing to the food and decor of their celebratory party.

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Some states do, in fact, recognize both civil unions and same sex marriages but unfortunately, the majority of states and the federal government don’t. Only hetereosexual married couples are granted certain benefits and protections that civil unions and same sex marriages aren’t granted. Why is that? Let’s look at the differences of all these terms.

What Is a Marriage?

Marriage is more than just a declaration of love and commitment; it’s a legal status. This legal status is given to couples by the state government. Once a marriage is issued, it’s generally recognized in every state and every nation in the world. Marriage grants couples certain unique rights, obligations, and protections on both the state and federal level. These include:

  • Tax benefits: As a married couple, you can file joint tax returns with the state and the IRS.
  • Health care benefits: You may have the right to make medical decisions on behalf of your spouse, as well as have unlimited visitation privileges, if they are sick.
  • Estate planning benefits: When your spouse dies, you’ll inherit all of their assets, without incurring taxes.

Ready to take the plunge? We’re here to help answer any questions you may have along the way. Though a Prenuptial Agreement isn’t the most romantic item on the wedding planning agenda, it’s the only way to protect you and your assets before entering a marriage.

What Is a Civil Union?

A civil union is also a legal status that provides many of the same protections that a marriage offers to both same-sex and heterosexual couples. The biggest difference between a civil union and a marriage is the fact that these protections are only recognized on the state level.

Civil Union vs. Marriage

Couples who are legally married enjoy many more benefits than those who are engaged in a civil union. When comparing a civil union vs. marriage, marriages have the following advantages:

  • Tax benefits on both the state and federal level. Tax benefits aren’t available to civil union couples.
  • Only marriages are recognized in all states. Civil unions won’t be recognized in states, which haven’t adopted them.
  • Married couples are granted immigration benefits when petitioning for a spouse who isn’t a citizen.
  • Life insurance, social security, and medical benefits are only available to married couples.

Anyone (hetereosexual or same-sex couples) can engage in a civil union. On the other hand, the majority of states only allow a man and a woman to legally marry. The civil union was originally an attempt to provide same-sex couples with many of the same benefits that married couples enjoy. In actuality, little protection is given to couples in a civil union vs. marriage.

Civil Union vs. Same-Sex Marriage

The comparison of same-sex marriage vs. civil union is really no different than comparing legal heterosexual marriages and civil unions. A same sex marriage is treated as a marriage, so you’re given many of the same state-level protections that heterosexual married couples receive.

Same sex marriages are only recognized in a handful of states. These marriages won’t be recognized when you cross state borders. This means that any benefits you receive on the state or local level will be subject to federal taxation.

Get started Start Your Prenuptial Agreement Answer a few questions. We'll take care of the rest.

Get started Start Your Prenuptial Agreement Answer a few questions. We'll take care of the rest.